Brownsville leaders celebrated the opening of a downtown police substation with a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday evening at Market Square. The station is part of downtown revitalization efforts to attract visitors and businesses by changing the perception that the area is dangerous.

Brownsville leaders celebrated the opening of a downtown police substation with a ribbon cutting ceremony Wednesday evening at Market Square. The station is part of downtown revitalization efforts to attract visitors and businesses by changing the perception that the area is dangerous.

The renovated office is located in the 1877 San Fernando Building and will house the bike patrol that was stationed inside the Brownsville bus terminal, officials said.

Esmeralda Villarreal, president and CEO of the Brownsville Chamber of Commerce, was the master of ceremonies and said bike patrol officers will be able to maneuver where vehicles cannot, prevent crime and be present at community events.

Downtown District Manager Miriam C. Suarez told the audience that since downtown Brownsville revitalization efforts began in 2009, the city and its partners have invested over $55 million into the area. There are 26 new businesses that represent over $1 million in public and private investment, she said.

“We encourage the public to take ownership of downtown Brownsville,” Suarez said.

District 4 City Commissioner Ben Neece, who represents downtown, said he hopes the commission’s recent approval of downtown security cameras bolsters visitors’ perception that downtown is safe. Last week, the Brownsville City Commission awarded Xtreme Security & Fire of Brownsville a more than $498,000 lump-sum contract to install and provide 24/7 technical support for 40 camera systems in the Main Street District. Each system has two cameras: one that has a 360-degree view and another that can pan, tilt and zoom.

Neece said the city hopes to integrate “panic poles” with buttons that can alert police to people in distress, and parking is another issue commissioners plan to tackle. They are also working to bring a flamenco and paella festival to the city.

“Things are really cranking up, and we’re happy about that,” he said.

Outgoing Police Chief Orlando Rodriguez said the substation is special to him and the police department. He thanked city leaders who have pushed revitalization efforts.

“As a young patrolman in the early 80s, here it was filled with bars, and it was a tough place to work. Right before our very eyes, it is happening,” Rodriguez said of positive changes, “and it is amazing. (People think), ‘These are the streets my great grandparents walked down and my parents,’ and it means something to us.”

Interim Chief David Dale echoed Rodriguez’s words of thanks and said the substation will take officers’ relationship with the community “to the next level.”

“Law enforcement is always looking for ways to advance public safety and serving, and this substation does that,” he said.

Dale said that while the substation does not have set office hours, that’s something he wants to establish in the future. The 750-square-foot office has room for eventual expansion if the second floor is renovated, he said.

The interior of the office has a ballistic wall and window, Officer Louie de Leon of the Brownsville Police Department’s fiscal management office said, and the wall is adorned with photos of police from the 1930s and 1940s that were a gift from his uncle. They show officers at work, the Charro Days Parade and Gateway International Bridge when its moniker was in neon lights.

It has two work stations where officers will be able to view live video from the forthcoming security camera network, he said, adding that the video will also be viewable by officers in the main police department building.

Trey Mendez, co-owner of Dodici Pizza and Wine, said downtown business owners have long called for a substation.

“Seeing the substation her is just a breath of fresh air,” he said. “This is a downtown Brownsville a lot of us envisioned. We’re going to make downtown Brownsville the destination we want it to be.”